Samuel Beckett referred to commentaries on art as a calmative (S.B. Das Gleiche nochmals anders: Texte zur Bildenden Kunst, 2000). Richard Tuttle values talking about art. In his exhibitions, he likes to stand in front of his works and discuss them. His commentaries rebut and affirm the remark by Beckett by taking paradoxical detours and by confounding and disconcerting with their nuanced differentiation and detail. Whether direct pathways or circuitous detours, when Tuttle works and when he talks he is always in motion. The important thing is that walking such a fine line leads to uncharted territory. Whoever heads down this path does so at his own risk, for there are no guaranteed certainties.
Language, whether spoken or written, usually has the fatal tendency to anticipate meaning, fake comprehension, to thrust itself ahead of the works. More and more, the well-intentioned message and symbolic sublimation become identified as the origin and sufficient legitimation of the will to artistic expression. Such gestures ostensibly accompany and anticipate global world affairs. This plausible reductionism, allowing the extraction of entire lines of development from nothing but footnotes, removes the actual artifact from the focus of attention.
Richard Tuttle is the antipode of such a view of art and narrative strategy. With his delicate, vulnerable works, he creates facts of a different kind. His works owe their remarkable precision to a mode of action that reflects and registers each and every procedure. Metaphorically they cannot be deciphered and they remain in a state of intimation, pointing to their transcendence. The curious things or notations nevertheless still demand full attention. The precise seeing, the precise observation of all that is present here within a small space serve as the precondition for an adequate reception of this art.
Each new work group by Richard Tuttle gradually extricates itself from an initial phase of absence of any likelihood of art. Is it a certainty that time and again, art must begin where art does not (yet) exist? In any case, it is hard work for the artist to bind an initial material construct to a field of signs that is all his own. Or, more precisely, material, form and sign ultimately constitute a unity in the work with each aspect owing its formation to the other aspects.
Drawing – Richard Tuttle believes his entire oeuvre can be subsumed by this term, this activity. ‘Drawing’ must not be understood as a convention or acquired skill. It is therefore apt that our exhibition presents drawings and works on paper from over forty years and attests to the paramount importance of Richard Tuttle’s oeuvre as a graphic artist.
In May 1974, the first exhibition of Richard Tuttle was held at Annemarie and Gianfranco Verna. This current retrospective of drawings makes a total of seventeen solo presentations of the artist. Multiple publications on his work and a number of artist’s books have accompanied their collaboration over the years.
With the major retrospective curated by Madeleine Grynsztejn for the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art in 2005 and shown through 2007 at important American museums in New York, Des Moines, Dallas and Chicago, the influence and standing of Richard Tuttle is clearly established. Yet the Richard Tuttle phenomenon is one that can never be definitively isolated, as made plainly evident by the new works in our exhibition.
Antonio Calderara, Giorgio Griffa Works on Paper
December 6, 2018 to February 9, 2019
AGNES MARTIN Religion of Love | RICHARD TUTTLE Illustration
Publishers: Estate of Agnes Martin Dream Tree Project, Inc. Richard Tuttle Verlag der Buchhandlung Walther König, Cologne, Germany
Paintings on Paper
Editors: Michael Semff, Gianfranco Verna